When The Impossible Project sent me a Polaroid camera and some Impossible film to play around with, I almost died. My old Polaroid camera had kicked it a few years ago and I'd never replaced it. Finally, my sadness was lifted. I knew I had to write about it but I couldn't figure out an angle aside from, "Impossible Film Is So Cool, Guys!" When our digital VP suggested I try going totally analog for a week, my first thought was, does this mean I don't have to... work? Obviously not. Since I work on the Internet and do certain NYLON things requiring the use of a phone (like Instagram), I wasn't really prepared to completely unplug. But, I could set some strict guidelines for myself; I would use my phone only for important calls and absolutely necessary business.
First, a little phone background on me: Yes, it is scary, but I am old enough to remember life before smartphones. I didn't own a cell phone until I was in college, and then I rarely used it because everyone I wanted to chat with was down the hall or on AIM. My parents live in a town upstate that is so rural, high speed Internet is a joke and they still don't have great cell service. I always imagine that when I am visiting them I will achieve maximum relaxation without the pressure of email and texting, but mostly I get frustrated because I can't stream my shows.
Like most people (maybe more like most people my age?), I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It's convenient and makes my life so much easier, but it also adds pressure to my work and social life, much of it completely superficial. I mean, it's hard enough living in a place like New York City without getting notified about every birthday party, job promotion, and wedding within a five mile radius. Because of work, I wasn't going cold turkey on technology, but would instead exercise more of a consciouscellular uncoupling.
I personally mostly spend time on my phone out of habit. When it comes down to it, I don't get that many important emails, texts, weather updates etc. Very few people comment on my Instagram. I don't even have the facebook app on my phone. The one time I tried snapchat I accidentally sent a picture of half my boob to someone with the username "boyfried" instead of my actual boyfriend. And, while I am completely interested in the cultural implications of device dependency and the meaning of the internet etc. etc., this isn't really that deep—I mostly just wanted to see if cutting back on my own screen time would actually make a difference in my life... and take some cool pics.
To be honest, I thought I could predict exactly how I would end up writing about it (it's not like unplugging is a new concept): I gave up my phone for a week and learned to be more present.... I gave up my phone for a week and cured my FOMO.... I gave up my phone for a week and stopped grinding my teeth... I gave up my phone for a week and got lost in Queens, uninvited from my friend's birthday party and caught pink eye from a payphone!
What happened was far less dramatic.
Click through the gallery to see how it all went down!
What do I actually do on my phone? Why do I check my screen every five minutes? Truthfully, it's mostly out of habit. I'm sure it's part of my inability to focus, due to my millenial-like short attention span. I can't wait for an elevator without checking my emails (and you know I'll keep refreshing when im in there despite the fact that there is virtually no service). The first day of my experiment was pretty easy.
Still into it. I read a book on the train and forget about work emails until I'm in the office. Remembered to wear a watch. So weird not to have my phone in my hand all the time!
Still feeling pretty good. Ignored a few texts and... didn't feel bad. Tempted to do some light Instagram stalking before bed. Feel more happy and self satisfied in my restraint. I slept easily and soundly, possibly because I wasn't staring at a screen? Or am I exhausted from walking 10 extra blocks in the wrong direction earlier... because I didn't have Google maps?
My first really frustrating day. Making plans sans cell phone? As someone who is chronically late—this is a problem.
After my minor temper tantrum yesterday, I feel like I've hit my stride. I'm heading upstate for the weekend with directions printed and meeting times arranged. I've been enjoying reading on the subway and writing notes in a real notebook... but I do miss my Internet reading. I feel less annoyed about the work-related things I do on my phone since I'm not on it much otherwise.
I barely looked at my phone all day. Carrying a camera around is definitely not as convenient as pulling your iPhone out whenever the need arises, but it makes you much more thoughtful about what and how you photograph things. I mean, duh.
Well, I made it. Did being less connected make my life better? In general... yes (surprise, surprise). I relearned the value of a few important skills, like committing to plans ahead of time, reading maps, and checking the weather in real life. I definitely went to bed earlier, and yes, it was nice to find inspiration outside of the Internet. Because I was limiting myself to important calls I was also having more substantial conversations, and not to sound cheesy—but they tended to be more meaningful. It did make me appreciate the things my phone does for me on a daily basis, things I will not be giving up again anytime soon. I also discovered that with Impossible project film, instant gratification can exist without the Internet. Magical.